Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Byron Dorgan (D-ND), and Mike Enzi (R-WY) introduced legislation to ban packer ownership of livestock. The bill would make it unlawful for a "packer to own, feed or control livestock, either through a subsidiary or an arrangement that gives the packer operational, managerial or supervisory control prior to seven days before slaughter."

Grassley said, "Outlawing packer ownership of livestock would make sure the forces of the marketplace would work for the benefit of the farmer just as much as it does for the slaughterhouse."

Harkin added: "The livestock marketing system will become dysfunctional if the industry becomes overly vertically integrated. We need some federal limits to how far packing and processing firms can go in controlling all phases of the livestock production and processing industry."

The bill exempts packers with one facility, or cooperatives where the members own, feed or control the livestock themselves. This legislation passed the Senate in 2002.
-- P. Scott Shearer, Washington, D.C., correspondent